Rebecca Gaither was transported by ambulance to West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Ill., on Nov. 27, 2012 with complaints of rear lower head pain and vision loss in her right eye. At the emergency room, she complained of a sudden onset of neck pain with an immediate episode of seeing stars in her right eye.
The triage nurse assessed her blood pressure as elevated and assigned her to the next available treatment bed. During examination by an emergency department doctor, Gaither, who was just 47 years old at the time, reported a sudden onset of lost bilateral vision and sharp neck pain while she was reaching for a phone. Following a normal neurological exam, the ER doctor ordered CT scans of the head and neck with and without contrast, for a suspected dissection of the left vertebral artery.
However, Gaither collapsed and became unresponsive before the scans were done. She was immediately transferred from West Suburban Medical to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., where a CT angiogram showed a ruptured 1.6-centimeter aneurysm in the right ophthalmic artery, left vertebral artery dissection with arteriovenous fistula and extensive severe fibromuscular dysplasia.